Allotments

Monday, December 11, 2017 - 20:38

Here at Eves Hill Veg Co we have come to the end of our second growing season at Eves Hill Farm. We’re still harvesting away (just) in rain, sleet and snow, but really feeling that we have harvested the fruits of all our labours and are ready for a Christmas break.

We’ve just completed our annual Top of the Crops report, with our mixed leaf salad coming up tops again – this year we sold more than £4,000 of it.

Mixed salad also topped our income per area of beds with £17.47 made for every square metre of salad we grew. This was closely followed by our amazing cucumber harvest, which came in at £17.33 per square metre. The total weight of our harvests was more than 2.6 tonnes.

These results were due in no small part to the larger polytunnel our volunteers helped put up in January and the ongoing support of our wonderful volunteer team.

Our target this year was to grow and sell £11,000 of produce and this week we passed the mark. We haven’t quite finished our volunteer log, but we do know that we received more than 2,000 volunteer hours in the first nine months of this year – a lot of flapjacks!

Our winter project is to review, evaluate, plan and strategise. We now have two advisors on board as part of the Bright Ideas programme and we’re hoping their support and ideas will help us develop our social enterprise model in 2018.

Meanwhile, Tom has joined the team part time for six months to help us develop our volunteer programme and opportunities for developing participation programmes at the site and beyond.

We are also launching a 100 Club to fund our Future Farmer Apprenticeship for 2018 (or the Growing a Grower Apprenticeship). Details will be forthcoming (we’re waiting for new bank account details), but with the help of Andrew Hadley we are hoping to raise funds in what we’re calling “old school crowdfunding”, which means everyone pops a little bit in the pot, but there will be cash prizes to be won.

This will enable us to create a first job in agriculture for a young person, grow a grower of the future and enable us to achieve even more at the garden.

If you think you can support us to spread the word please let Andrew, Tom or I know. And if you are looking for a Christmas present for someone, we’ll happily share the details now.

Our next open day will be the last weekend of January (more details in the New Year. We are also hoping to redesign our open days with workshops next year.

Our last veg bag this year is Thursday 14 December. Veg will resume in an ad hoc way in the spring and then back to veg bags in June/July.

Our last volunteer day this year is Wednesday 13 December, restarting Tuesday 9 January. Volunteer days will be on Tuesdays in January and February, then back to Wednesdays from March.

We will again be running our trainee programme in 2018. This is a 1½-days-a-week voluntary programmes that runs from April–October, covering all aspects of market gardening and community growing. Details to follow in January. This year we took on three trainees and we’d like to do that again.

Thanks again to all of you who have supported our project this year: given up your time, bought our produce, watered our plants, shut our polytunnel doors, leant your advice, made cake, enthused and rallied us on. If it takes a family to bring up a child, it certainly takes a community to support a farm.

Hannah Claxton 07876 354363 or email hannahclaxton@googlemail.com

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 - 08:28

In October, the big season shift has been played out by taking out all the tomatoes and cucumbers and filling the polytunnels with salads for mid-winter – watercress, wild rocket, salad rocket, winter purslane, endive, Asian greens, lettuces, sorrel and herbs.

Meanwhile, we continue to harvest the autumn salad mix – curly kale, cavolo nero, leeks, celeriac, beetroot, fennel, chard, spinach.

The squash is now cured (skin hardened by leaving in the polytunnel to dry out) and in storage, the garlic is still going strong from the store and the chillies are all going to Andy at the builders merchants in Aylsham to be made into chilli sauce.

Eves Hill Veg Co was set up in April 2016 to provide a space for people to learn about organic vegetable growing, working together on the land to provide fresh local produce of the highest quality.

One of the big things about our second growing season has been the traineeship programme.

This year Izzy, Ric and Frances took on the challenge of the voluntary programme for 1½ days a week from April to October, each with different aims and ambitions for learning.

Last Wednesday was the last day of their eight-month traineeship and it has been such a wonderful journey to be on with them all.

Frances has spent the summer working on a wildflower farm and is now taking her RHS Level 2 horticulture qualification at Easton & Otley College.

Ric is moving away from his work as a composer as his passion for land-based work grows, and is off to Spain to live in an eco-community.

Izzy has been sharing her newly developed gardening and people skills at The Grange, near Swaffham, a project for refugee groups to take respite in beautiful surroundings.

She said: “It has been a privilege to work outside every week amongst nature and amazing people.

“This traineeship has taught me invaluable growing and gardening skills, and I now know that I can successfully propagate, look after and harvest vegetables. I have also learnt how to take responsibilities and to have more confidence in myself.

“There is a rich biodiversity at the farm and it has been incredible to see it throughout different seasons.

“I have met a network of wonderful people, both volunteers and customers, who are full of knowledge and support and will hopefully be people I know for a long time.

“One experience that will stick with me is joining in with the hectic harvests – and to literally put food on people’s plates.

“The best thing, however, was getting to eating yummy organic vegetables every week.  I can’t wait to continue my time beyond this traineeship.”

Eves Hill Veg Co is located 1 mile southeast of Reepham on Norwich Road. Look out for the big black barns and entrance to Eves Hill Farm on the left, after the “hidden dip” signs.

Veg bags are available weekly to collect from the farm any time from Thursday at 3 pm. They can also can be collected from Erpingham after 5.30 pm, from Bread Source in Aylsham on Fridays after 10 am and Cawston on Fridays after 10.30 am.

Small veg bags are £6 and large veg bags are £10. Every week they contain a range of seasonal produce, harvested to order.

Volunteer days are every Wednesday from 10 am – 4 pm. No experience necessary. Bring lunch. Stay for an hour or two or join us for the whole day.

Hannah Claxton 07876 354363 or email

Photos: (top) Mid-winter salads in the polytunnels; (bottom): Former Eves Hill Veg Co trainees Ric and Izzy

Friday, September 29, 2017 - 13:14

Plants have a wonderful way of telling us that the seasons are shifting.

As the light and temperatures decline, our cucumbers, sweetcorn and beans are coming to an end, while the leeks, celeriac and kale are starting to look wonderful and gearing up for their first harvest.

Eves Hill Veg Co brought in the first of the winter squash in last week: Uchiki Kuri, a wonderful Japanese orange squash that is now curing in our polytunnel (hardening the skin for keeping quality).

We hope to bring the rest of our squash in on Saturday 30 September at our open day/community day.

Even the salads signal season change, with chard and parsley making way for Asian greens, such as mizuna, mibuna, “green in snow”, namenia, giant red mustard and, soon, rocket and watercress.

We’re feeling even more inspired by these wonderful subtle and spicy flavours as a copy of Joy Larkcom’s memoir Vegetating arrived with us last month, outlining her adventures in bringing new crops back to the UK from all over the world in the late 1970s with her family in tow.

Without her we’d be eating iceberg lettuce and turnips. As passionate vegetable growers, her legacy feeds our brains, hands and stomachs.

Speaking of salads, we are grateful to one of our new customers, who last week sent us this response to her first veg bag: “You have performed a miracle; my two-year-old has been eating salad all week and asking for more!”

We now have a pickup point for the veg bags in Cawston, as well as Booton, Aylsham and Erpingham. Large veg bags are £10 and small veg bags are £6, harvested to order every Thursday.

We are also proud to announce that we have just been awarded a small National Lottery Awards For All grant to support our work.

The money will mean we can focus on developing our business model and active research. This will include our production model and looking at where we will be taking our social outcomes side of our work.

This Saturday (30 Saturday) is our monthly open day when from 10 am – 2 pm we will be available to show you round and/or rope you into helping with the squash harvest and weeding the leeks.

Stop by and say hello, and send your friends along who are interested to know more about the veg bags or volunteering.

From 2–4 pm we will be welcoming the No Fear Gardening group from Norwich, which actively supports new and old gardeners to visit gardens and learn together.

We will be doing more of an in-depth gardeners’ tour (donation £2.50), with information about techniques that we use, such as no-dig and cut-and-come again salad, alongside the principles of being a community enterprise. RSVP by email.

Hannah Claxton 07876 354363 or email

  • Eves Hill Veg Co is located 1 mile south of Reepham on the Norwich Road. Look out for the big black barns and entrance to Eves Hill Farm, right by the “hidden dip” signs. Volunteer days are every Wednesday 10 am – 4 pm. No experience necessary. Bring lunch. Stay for an hour or two or join us for the whole day.

 

Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 20:45

As all fears of frost fade and we begin summer proper, windowsills and cold frames can finally be emptied of, and the allotment filled with, all those seedlings and cuttings.

If the dry weather continues, it’s vital to not just puddle them in, but also to keep them watered during the first weeks while they get their roots down.

Both the bigger allotment sites in Reepham have had trouble with potato blight, which also affects tomatoes, so I don’t grow mine outside directly in the ground.

Growing them in a greenhouse helps protect them from blight as well as giving them the warmth they love, but since I don’t have a greenhouse on my half-plot, I grow mine at home in pots in a sunny corner, instead.

Home-grown tomatoes, straight from the vine, are sweeter than any you’ll find in the shops.

I understand that Stoney Lane has been having problems with dogs doing their business on allotment site.

If the gate is left open, dogs being walked on Marriott’s Way can run through before their owners can stop them, stressing the chickens and leaving mess behind them. If everyone remembers to keep the gate shut, hopefully the problem should cease.

It’s not too late to sow courgettes and cucumbers for a late summer crop since they look for warmth rather than increasing daylight to produce flowers and fruits.

Succession sowing of peas, French beans, beetroot and salad ensures a continuous harvest rather than a glut, but do water the soil before sowing to give your crops the best possible start.

Meanwhile, as the asparagus season ends in June, the broad bean season has just begun, herbs are producing fragrant foliage, and roses and other cutting flowers are blooming.

And as I pick sun-ripened strawberries, I always share any over-ripe or slug-nibbled fruit with some pretty excited hens.

Sarah Oates

  • To ask about renting an allotment, contact: Jo Boxall, Town Clerk, Reepham Town Hall, Church Street, Reepham, Norfolk NR10 4JW. Tel: 01603 873355 or email. For information on joining RALGA, email or write via the allotment postbox.

 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 - 17:36

I might like to think of May as the start of summer, but I’ve also seen May bank holidays ruined by gales and heavy rain, and even a late cold snap.

So it’s worth ensuring broad bean plants are supported in case of strong winds and that potatoes are earthed up to protect new shoots from frost damage.

As summer approaches and the weather warms up, the less hardy seedlings can be planted out, including sweet peas and climbing beans.

I’m recycling some sycamore poles to make wigwams this year, which will hopefully be sturdy enough to withstand both the weight of the growing plants and the Norfolk winds.

I’ll also be making sure the soil is warmed through before I plant out. No seedling likes to be plunged into cold soil and runner beans in particular sulk horribly if you do so.

May is also the month of the Chelsea Flower Show, where vegetable gardens have had a bit of a renaissance.

A few years ago, one featured a raised strawberry bed that used gravel instead of straw as the mulch. As well as protecting them from slugs and rot, the gravel reflected the heat and helped the berries to ripen. I may give the idea a try.

There are a few empty plots at the allotments this year, so if you fancy giving allotment gardening a go, have a word with the town clerk, Jo Boxall.

Most plots have raspberry canes and whoever takes over the empty plot next to mine will inherit some magnificent artichoke plants, too.

Fellow allotmenteers often have extra seedlings to help you get started, and the annual cost of a half plot is less than £1 a week, with exercise, fresh air and sunshine included for free.

Sarah Oates

  • To ask about renting an allotment, contact: Jo Boxall, Town Clerk 01603 873355 or email
  • For information on joining RALGA, email or write via the allotment post box.